Taking stock

I have a serious asparagus addiction. Tossed with poached chicken, avocado, rocket (arugula) and a sprinkling of pickled ginger; it makes a damn fine, healthy Summer meal. I poach my chook breasts in a huge vat of home-made Asian chicken stock, to be used for other tasty meals later; such as Classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup.
This soup recipe comes courtesy of my friend Alicia’s mum-in-law, Pat. Alicia and her man Scott are well-known for hosting soup parties for their kid’s birthdays. They make 3 huge saucepans of different soup (including the chicken and corn), crank up the gas on the BBQs in their local park, and set the saucepans on the BBQs to keep warm. A stack of mugs is placed nearby, and folks help themselves. Such a brilliant idea – there is minimal serving of food required, so Alicia and Scott are free to enjoy a champers and a chinwag!
This chicken and corn soup is positively wolfed down by children. The recipe makes enough for 6, so the husband and I often take the leftovers to work the next day.
Oh, if you’ve not made your own stock before, it’s easy peasy – the ingredients are simply chopped, bunged in a pot, simmered and strained. It freezes well, and is so much nicer and healthier (no spooky additives) than bought stock.
PS. One more thing, and then I’ll stop jibber-jabbering. You can of course make these meals in any order you wish. You could prepare the stock and chicken breasts on a Sunday, make the soup on Monday and the salad on Wednesday (storing tips are below the recipe).

Poached chicken and asparagus salad[Recipe 1] Poached chicken, avocado and asparagus salad

Asian stock (makes 3–4 litres/100–140 fl oz):
2 kilos (4 lb) chicken bones
5 litres (5 quarts) water
3 onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed under a knife
3 coriander (cilantro) roots, chopped (reserve leaves for salad dressing)
7½cm (3″) piece of ginger, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, leaves included, chopped
12 whole black peppercorns or Szechuan peppercorns
6 dried star anise
3 large skinless chicken breasts (2 for the salad, 1 for the chicken and corn soup)
1 bunch asparagus (4 spears per person), woody ends trimmed, halved on the diagonal
80g (3 cups/3 oz) wild rocket (arugula)
1 large ripe avocado (or 2 small), chopped
2 reserved cooked, shredded chicken breasts (see above)
Half quantity coriander dressing
Pickled ginger, to serve

To make the stock, place all ingredients, except the chicken breasts, in a large stock pot. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 2½ hours, uncovered.
Add the chicken breasts to the stock for the last 2 minutes of simmering time. Turn off the heat and allow them to sit in the stock as it cools, for 2 hours. Remove the chicken breasts.
Chop 1 chicken breast and set aside for Pat’s classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup.
Shred the other two chicken breasts and reserve for the salad.
Strain stock with a colander into a large pan, and discard vegetables and chicken bones. Strain again with a fine sieve.
Refrigerate stock overnight. When completely cooled, skim and discard solid fat from top of stock. Divide stock into 6 cup portions and refrigerate or freeze until required.
Reserve 6 cups Asian chicken stock for Pat’s classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup.
To make the salad, blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 2–3 minutes, drain and rinse. Place the rocket into a large bowl, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of coriander dressing, and toss to combine. Place the asparagus, 2 shredded chicken breasts and avocado in another bowl, add a splash of coriander dressing and gently toss to combine. Divide the rocket amongst 4 serving bowls. Top with chicken, asparagus and avocado. Scatter with pickled ginger. Enjoy!

  • Cooked chicken breasts can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Stock can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. 
  • Dried star anise is available from the spice section of supermarkets, and Asian food stores.
  • Pickled ginger is available from Asian food stores.
  • When using fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, reserve the roots and freeze for up to 3 months. They’re fabulous for flavouring stocks.
  • Fussy kid tip: Make a kid-friendly version of this salad with poached chicken, chopped avocado and grated carrot or carrot sticks. You can even toss in a chopped boiled egg!

  • Baby tip: Don’t discard your celery and carrots from the stock – puree them with a dash of stock and a poached chicken breast (add another one to the pot, especially for baby). Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost when required.

10 minute chicken and corn soup

[Recipe 2] Pat’s classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup

Ingredients (serves 6):
6 cups reserved Asian chicken stock (or store-bought stock – see notes below)
 ♦ 1 reserved large poached chicken breast, finely chopped
1 x 420g (14 oz) can creamed corn
1 x 420g (15 oz) can corn kernels, drained, rinsed (or 1½ cups cooked corn kernels*)
3 tablespoons corn flour (cornstarch)
1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 egg whites, whisked with 1 tablespoon water
3 spring onions (scallions), sliced, to serve

Place reserved Asian stock into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat.
♦ Add reserved poached chicken breast.
Add creamed corn and corn kernels, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, covered.
Blend cornflour with 3 tablespoons warm water. Add to the soup, and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and sesame oil.
Turn off heat and gradually add egg white mixture, stirring well, for about 2 minutes, until the whites are cooked and streaky.
Ladle soup into deep bowls and scatter with spring onions.

  • *One 420g (15 oz) can corn kernels, drained and rinsed, yields about 1½ cups corn kernels. If you wish to use fresh corn instead, you’ll need to boil two small corn cobs for about 10 minutes, then remove the kernels with a sharp knife.
  • For variety, add a bunch of bok choy, leaves finely sliced (green parts only), at the same time as the corn.
  • If you’re really strapped for time, you can use store-bought chicken stock, in which case you should omit adding salt. You can also make this soup with an uncooked chicken breast. Chop the fillet finely and place it into the simmering stock with the creamed corn and corn kernels, and simmer for an extra 5 minutes (15 minutes total simmering time).